offer some of our nation’s best views of the cosmos. A fundamental
new work, The New World Atlas of Artificial Sky Brightness,
significantly expands knowledge of light pollution and its impact on
the night sky. The atlas, published last week by Science
Advances, is the work of an international team
including National Park Service scientist Dan Duriscoe.
“Few places on
earth offer pristine dark views to the rising Milky Way and starry
constellations and light pollution is a bright filter upon this vast
canvas,” said Duriscoe. “Verification of NPS ground measurements
with satellite data from NOAA creates an accurate model for
predicting night sky quality in national parks and locations around
the world, which can be used to increase opportunities for park
visitors and stargazers to enjoy this rare and diminishing
Park Service Natural
Sounds and Night Skies Division is viewed worldwide as
a leader in the protection of dark night skies. The atlas draws on
Duriscoe’s seminal research and on-the-ground measurements of night
sky brightness, amassed over the past decade of fieldwork in over 100
national park areas.
datasets helped calibrate and corroborate data from NOAA satellite
images of light scattering into the atmosphere. Duriscoe’s
extensive tests also provided essential data for the light pollution
model, and helped establish international methods in use today for
reporting the impact of artificial light on natural environments.
project was led by principal investigator Fabio Falchi with Light
Pollution Science and Technology Institute
in Italy, and with additional expertise from Duriscoe, the National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
GeoForschungsZentrum in Germany, and
“With the loss of dark sky views, the ancestral stories of
celestial phenomena that so richly express our connection to these
orbiting bodies are all but forgotten. And this is more than a matter
of nostalgia. Humans need opportunities for wonderment and
contemplation of the universe, and animals need darkness for
protection, navigation, nesting and predation.”
places in the United States are in the Colorado Plateau, a region of
the Southwest covering parts of Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and
Arizona. National parks in this area include Capital Reef, Mesa
Verde, Arches and Canyonlands. Of the western European countries,
Scotland, Sweden and Norway remain among the darkest locations.
Singapore, Qatar, Kuwait and United Arab Emirates are among the most
light-polluted countries in the world.
The New World
Atlas model provides a compelling illustration that sky glow extends
large distances from cities, and offers a tool for National Parks to
work in partnership with all stakeholders to pursue restoration of
individuals alike can also do their part to minimize light pollution
by adopting simple solutions, such as switching to shielded fixtures
that direct light downward instead of into the surroundings, and
using amber, or warm colored bulbs, instead of cool blue LEDs, which
amplify sky brightness two to three times above the typical output.
According to Duriscoe, “Even one of these changes can make a
difference in the palette of night.”
As part of the
National Park Service's Centennial Celebration, park officials are
working to qualify the Cape Hatteras National Seashore as a “dark
sky park” – an undertaking that was started more than a year ago.
The seashore has some of the darkest skies on the East Coast.
designation is made by the International Dark Sky Association,
a non-profit group based in Arizona. There’s only one other park
in the southeast that has this title, and it's in North Carolina’s
Blue Ridge Mountains. A dark sky park is defined as a park that has
“exceptional starry skies,” where light pollution is minimized,
and where a natural dark environment is prevalent.